THE HAGUE, Netherlands —18 March 2019 — The Government of Australia is contributing €100,000 toward the Trust Fund for Syria Missions for the formation and operation of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian Arab Republic.
The team was created pursuant to the decision on addressing the threat from chemical weapons use adopted by the Conference of the States Parties at its Fourth Special Session in June 2018.
The contribution was formalised through an arrangement signed on 15 March by OPCW Director-General, H.E. Mr Fernando Arias, and the Government of Australia through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade represented by Permanent Representative of Australia to the OPCW, H.E. Ambassador Matthew Neuhaus.
The Director-General has appealed to all OPCW Member States in a position to make voluntary contributions to do so while emphasising that “Identifying perpetrators will advance existing endeavours to tackle the re-emergence of use of chemical weapons”.
Ambassador Neuhaus remarked that Australia welcomes the decision to boost the OPCW’s ability to investigate and attribute responsibility for any future use of chemical weapons, in a way that no single country can veto. He continued to state, “Identifying perpetrators in an independent and impartial way will help deter others who believe they can get away with using these reprehensible weapons. Strengthening global arrangements to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a key national security priority for Australia. It is part of the Government’s efforts to make our nation, and the international community, safer and more secure.”
The OPCW’s Technical Secretariat is currently assembling a team of experts and setting up necessary procedures.
On 27 June 2018, the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) adopted at its Fourth Special Session a Decision on Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use.
The decision calls upon the OPCW Technical Secretariat to put in place arrangements “to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons in those instances in which the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission determines or has determined that use or likely use occurred, and cases for which the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has not issued a report”.
The decision further affirmed that whenever chemical weapons use occurs on the territory of a State Party, “those who were the perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved should be identified” and it underscored “the added value of the Secretariat conducting an independent investigation of an alleged use of chemical weapons with a view to facilitating universal attribution of all chemical weapons attacks”, if requested by a State Party.
As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, with its 193 Member States, oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons. Since the Convention’s entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 96% of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.